Authors: Brian Howard and Kangwook Han
Affiliated organisation: Afrobarometer
Site of publication: Afrobarometer.org
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: 19 March 2020
On average across 34 African countries, about half (49%) of citizens went without enough clean water for home use during the year preceding the survey, including 38% who suffered this form of lived poverty1 “several times,” “many times,” or “always”. Repeated shortages of clean water (at least “several times”) decreased slightly between surveys in 2011/2013 (39%) and 2014/2015 (35%) but increased again by 2016/2018, wiping out the earlier gains.
The situation has worsened significantly over the past six years in 12 of 31 countries surveyed throughout the period, with the most severe declines recorded in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, where the proportion of citizens who “never” went without enough clean water shrank by 17, 12, and 10 percentage points, respectively. Improvements were registered in eight countries, led by Guinea (+17 points), Tunisia (12 points), and Malawi.
On average across 34 African countries, about half (49%) of citizens went without enough clean water for home use
While SDG6 targets call for “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all” by 2030, only a slim majority (54%) of Africans live in areas served by a piped-water system. 2 This ranges from just 8% of Liberians to more than nine out of 10 Tunisians (91%), São Toméans (91%), and Mauritians (100%).
More than half (52%) of Africans have to go outside their compound for clean water. This is true for more than eight out of 10 citizens in Uganda (87%), Niger (84%), Malawi (82%), and Tanzania (81%). A water source inside the home or compound is enjoyed by just three out of 10 rural residents (31%) and citizens experiencing high lived poverty (28%).
Among respondents who tried to obtain water, sanitation, or electricity services from the government during the year preceding the survey, almost two-thirds (63%) say it was “difficult” or “very difficult” to get the services they needed. The proportions complaining of difficulty range from four in 10 in Tanzania and Mauritius (both 40%) to more than three-fourths in Madagascar (79%) and Gabon (78%) (Figure 12). Across 33 countries surveyed in both 2014/2015 and 2016/2018, the share of respondents reporting it was easy to obtain these services declined from 44% to 36%.
On average across 34 countries, water/sanitation ties with infrastructure/transport/roads for third place among the most important national problems that Africans want their governments to address, trailing only unemployment and health (Figure 14). Six out of 10 Guineans (60%) cite water/sanitation among their three most important problems, followed by 47% of Tanzanians and 44% of Burkinabè. Countries where the share of respondents who prioritize water/sanitation as an urgent national problem increased the most are Guinea, Tanzania, Kenya, and Côte d’Ivoire.
When we map citizens’ “most important problems” onto the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG6 (“clean water and sanitation”) is the highest-priority goal for Guineans, the second-highest priority in Tanzania and Benin, and the third-highest in eight other countries. Water/sanitation is an especially high priority in poor countries
Given these manifold concerns, it’s no surprise that a majority (54%) of Africans say their government is doing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at providing water and sanitation services , although this reflects a modest improvement since 2011/2013 (from 56% to 53% across 31 countries surveyed in all of the past three rounds). Gabonese (84%) and Guineans (82%) are most critical. Only nine countries register majority approval of government performance on water/sanitation, led by eSwatini (65%) and Botswana (63%).
The greatest improvements in citizen assessments of government performance on water and sanitation occurred in Liberia, Lesotho, eSwatini, Senegal, Tunisia, and Tanzania, while Malawi, Guinea, South Africa, Sudan, and Sierra Leone registered the greatest declines.
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